Fatherhood Memoirs

It was suggested that I might want to consider writing a memoir of
my father. The thought has remained with me. I could do it; for my own peace and the edification of my family even if, as is likely the case, it were never published.

As I contemplated the idea I started looking for fatherhood memoirs; books written as tributes to fathers from their children and very soon now I should be receiving at least a couple at my front door. But while I wait, I decided to dig a little more, and research reviews or obscure books that may not have been as well known which fit the genre.That’s when I ran across this Guardian article from 2013.

As I dug into the article and the synopses of the fatherhood memoirs which the author labeled among the “10 best”, I found that I was frozen with the idea of writing such a book. The glimpses of the books presented seemed to indicate that the children of the men explored felt compelled to tell all sides of the story, no matter how unpleasant their memories of their fathers seemed to be. I wondered where the admonition to honor your father fit into all of that. The author put it thus:

The concept of father memoirs is a fascinating one. Confronting fathers directly and publicly is not, and never has been, easy: the patriarch should judge and not be judged. To write about the father is to sit in judgment upon him, and for most cultures this was a taboo too strong to be overcome. The Greeks, despite their searingly perceptive stories about father-child interactions, did not attempt to do so – nor did the Romans, the Italians of the Renaissance, the Elizabethans or even the Romantics. Paradoxically – but not surprisingly, given the rigid paternalism of the age and the attendant psychological pressures – personal father writing, like radical feminism, is a product of the Victorian era.

In 1907, six years after the death of Queen Victoria, Edmund Gosse published Father and Son. Once the taboo was broken, writers were quick to take advantage of the new possibilities. The 20th century saw a steady increase in the number of father memoirs and, now that the boomers are ageing and seeking to immortalise themselves, such memoirs are becoming as ubiquitous as tattoos. As with tattoos, some are visceral works of art.

I look forward to reading and reviewing at least two of the fatherhood memoirs listed as the summer months unfold, as well as this one which I find particularly intriguing.

The twists and turns of life have opened me up to a genre of writing I never would have considered 3 months ago.

That is the power of the written word.

5 thoughts on “Fatherhood Memoirs

  1. Jenny says:

    I watched a documentary on Netflix last month called Finding Vivian Maier. It was a beautiful memoir, but then, like you said, they started revealing all her dirt and it made me so sad. She’s dead and can’t defend herself, and she didn’t have family rich enough or close enough to make a big deal out of it. I thought it ruined her memoir.


  2. Elspeth says:

    That’s the thing, Jenny. In the case of Vivian Maier, because she had no children/grandchildren, there was no one to offer a rebuttal or a defense.

    Then of course, the people who produced her documentary weren’t family and had no interest in preserving a dignified memory in the minds of those who watched their film. I don’t know why a man or woman’s children however, would be so compelled to smear the name of the ones who gave them life.

    Thankfully, my father has no such dearth of witnesses to the magnificent life he lived. And truth be told, while he was not perfect, nearly every unpleasant interaction he and I had was a result of my lack of diligence, obedience, or virtue.

    I wonder how many writers who decimate the memories of their parents would be so transparent with their own flaws.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Booky McBookerson says:

    Vivian Maier was a bit of an oddball and I agree the documentary on her was uncomfortable at times. Not sure I would have appreciated sugar coating it though either.

    On the father memoirs, people seem to have lost the idea of a tribute in favor of so-called “honesty” and some kind of psychological delving nonsense. It’s the fashion of the time, unfortunately. Over-sharing Oprah style.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elspeth says:

    people seem to have lost the idea of a tribute in favor of so-called “honesty” and some kind of psychological delving nonsense.

    The psychological delving itself really does smack of dishonesty to me. How can you really know that your analysis is correct?

    I have been the subject of an erroneous armchair psychoanalysis or two myself (as I’m sure you guys have as well). I would hate the idea of my children after the fact deciding for themselves why they think I made whatever choices I made.

    They can just ask me now…and in a few instances they have. That is one thing I have absolutely no intentions of engaging in.


  5. Booky McBookerson says:

    That is a good point too on the dishonesty of psychological delving. More often than not it’s a ‘best guess’ and then used to control and demonize people, which really chaps my hide. No thanks to all that.

    One can be honest without romanticizing and without smearing, I think. What one can’t really do is offer a totally unbiased account of anything – there will always be subjectivity involved and that’s fine really.

    Liked by 1 person

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